KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission has said it had fired more than 3,000 staff accused of fraud in the first round of the presidential election, as it sought to quell fears that it might fail to deliver a legitimate outcome.
Afghans voted on April 5 in the first round to pick a successor to President Hamid Karzai, barred by the constitution from standing for a third term after more than a decade in power.
The winner will take charge at a crucial time, with most foreign troops due to withdraw by the end of the year, the Taliban insurgency still raging and a pact with Washington permitting some US forces to stay hanging in the balance.
Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said Independent Election Commission had blacklisted the fired staff, so that they would not be hired in the second round.
“Some fraud was reported from those polling stations,” he added, referring to the sites where the fired staff had worked.
Independent election monitors say many complaints were ignored in the effort to meet deadlines and the decisionmaking process lacked transparency.
“The Complaints Commission must ensure to look into all complaints so that the results are acceptable to all sides,” said Jandad Spingar, director of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan. The run-off will on June 14 and the results will be announced on July 22. Both frontrunners, former opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, complain that widespread fraud undermined the first round, reinforcing concern that the loser on June 14 may reject the run-off result. “The worst-case scenario would be if the election is polarising and the results are not accepted by one of the candidates and that has the potential to lead to conflict,” Nicholas Haysom, deputy head of the UN mission, told journalists last week. “The remedy to that is to make the election as transparent as possible.”
More than 900 complaints classed in the most serious category were recorded in the April 5 vote, more than in the previous election, when over one million votes were thrown out.
Around 300,000 were excluded this time around.
Ghani said most fraudulently cast votes were included in the final tally because of threats from rival candidates.
“Threats of violence, where the opposing team promised rivers of blood, created a chilling environment,” Ghani said in a statement after the final results were released. “Close to 800,000 votes that should have been declared fraudulent were included in the final count.”
Abdullah, who led first round results by a margin of nearly 14 percentage points, said the true scale of fraud had not been revealed to salvage the process and give the electoral bodies a chance to reform. Reuters